An unremarkable father-daughter bonding story in a remarkable setting.

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GENIUS JOLENE

Jolene accompanies her trucker dad on a job to Los Angeles.

It’s time for Jolene’s annual adventure with her dad—she has been making long-haul trips with him since she was 4. She loves camping out in the cab, eating road-stop food, and being together on the road—just the two of them. For this trip, she’s looking forward to rating onion rings together. Things are different this trip, though, because in the last year her parents got divorced when Jolene’s dad came out as gay. She now alternates weeks living with her mom in their old apartment and with her dad in the new apartment he shares with his boyfriend, Joey. These are big changes, but unfortunately, the author doesn’t dive deep into how Jolene is feeling about them, and it seems like a missed opportunity for exploration of identity and feelings as well as a way to model emotional communication in difficult situations. Grayscale illustrations every few pages help pace new chapter-book readers through the story. The text contains no reference to race or ethnicity for Jolene and her parents; the illustrations show a freckle-faced Jolene with brown skin while her mom has dark skin and her dad has white skin. Joey is Coast Salish, and there is an explanation of what “Indigenous” means but not much further exploration of this identity either. Backmatter includes recipes for onion rings, aioli, and spruce-tip syrup.

An unremarkable father-daughter bonding story in a remarkable setting. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2529-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Well-crafted, accessible, and essential.

WE HAD TO BE BRAVE

ESCAPING THE NAZIS ON THE KINDERTRANSPORT

A vital collection of vignettes from the Kindertransport, the World War II rescue effort that brought about 10,000 child refugees from Nazi-controlled countries into Britain.

Years before the Nazis ramped up to genocide, the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich convinced some parents that their children were unsafe. Emigration, however, was quite difficult. Even for those prepared to move somewhere they didn’t speak the language, it was shockingly difficult to get a visa. England and the United States had strict immigration quotas. Nevertheless, refugee advocates and the British Home Office hatched a plan to bring child refugees into Britain and settle them with foster families. (A similar attempt in the U.S. died in Congress.) The voices of myriad Kindertransport survivors are used to tell of this harrowing time, recalling in oral histories and published and unpublished memoirs their prewar lives, the journey, their foster families. Sidebars provide more resources about the people in each section; it’s startlingly powerful to read a survivor’s story and then go to a YouTube video or BBC recording featuring that same survivor, speaking as an adult or recorded as a child more than 80 years ago. Historical context, personal stories, and letters are seamlessly integrated in this history of frightened refugee children in a new land and their brave parents’ making “the heart-wrenching decision” to send their children away with strangers to a foreign country.

Well-crafted, accessible, and essential. (timeline, glossary, resources, index, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-25572-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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